Night of the Living Highway Extension

Tacoma resident Evan Siroky got a rude reminder of what's in Washington State DOT's project pipeline yesterday, reading in the local paper that officials are looking to revive plans to extend state route 167 as a limited access highway. The new highway segment would reach the Port of Tacoma, and Siroky writes on member blog Tacoma Tomorrow that it's being sold, in part, as a boon for freight movement, though most of its impact will be to induce more driving and sprawl.

To say that this project has been "revived" isn't quite the right way to put it, though. The idea never really died, despite a $2 billion pricetag that can only be partially offset by tolling the new roadway. It has sat in the pipeline as the state DOT has gone about amassing property along the right-of-way. The fact that the highway extension seems to be gaining momentum now, at a time when local transit agencies may be forced to cut service to the bone, speaks to a flaw in the outlook of many state DOTs: When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Siroky writes:

SR167.jpgWashington State DOT proposes to build this interchange linking an extension of SR167 to I-5.
Our very own Port of Tacoma is probably one of the biggest boosters for this highway project. They see the project as a way to increase freight accessibility to and from the Port with all the industrial development along SR 167. Sure it would help decrease travel times maybe 5 minutes, but still, this project would be almost exclusively for personal vehicle travel.

Overall, it's just saddening to me that our state continues with these new highway projects. Do we really want to keep building these highway monstrosities while leaving transit systems out to die? Maybe most of the people in our state do want more highways. WSDOT is after all governed by state law requiring all gas taxes to be spent on only highways and the public has voted numerous times to increase our state gas tax. Want more highways? Do nothing!

Personally, I think we have enough highways and should be spending our money on sexier projects like extending Tacoma Link, making Pierce Transit better and improving Amtrak Cascades... These highway projects will only continue to promote what today are unsustainable automobiles and promote development of land in suburbia.

Elsewhere around the Network: Smart Growth America applauds the passage of a "Sustainable Communities Task Force" bill in North Carolina. Greater Greater Washington and the Bike-Sharing Blog map where 100 new bike-share stations will be located in the nation's capital. And M-Bike tracks the progress of a complete streets bill in the Michigan legislature.